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The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  68 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews

Nineteenth-century American writers frequently cast the Mormon as a stock villain in such fictional genres as mysteries, westerns, and popular romances. The Mormons were depicted as a violent and perverse peoplethe "viper on the hearth"who sought to violate the domestic sphere of the mainstream. While other critics have mined the socio-political sources of anti-Mormonism,

ebook, 228 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Not Avail (first published January 1st 1997)
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Greg Diehl
May 12, 2013 Greg Diehl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed this one. I'll confess to a not-so-subtle literary "bromance" I've developed with Givens. He couples wit with wisdom and isn't afraid to bring Mormon doctrine into the full light of day to facilitate a thoughtful and academically rigorous discussion. Well-played (and well-written) Mr. Givens.
"This is the first full explanation of why Mormons have been demonized by a nation that prides itself on open toleration of all faiths. Givens carefully appraises every past explanation for the printed attacks and physical persecutions that occurred from the 1830s onward, as newspapers, novels, and satires convinced a 'tolerant' public that Mormons should not be tolerated. He then makes a convincing argument that the primary affront the Mormons offered was theological: their anthropomorphic pict ...more
Jan 23, 2014 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Givens uses Mormonism to illustrate how popular literature has traditionally been used to marginalize and thus demonize minorities. It is a very fine study.�
Perhaps the most interesting (to me) twist is that while in the 19th century, the main thrust was to turn Mormons, in the minds of readers, into something distinctly OTHER than mainstream, thus dinstancing them prior to demonizing them, in the latter end of the 20th century, that has almost reversed. In a day when the OTHER is now being exa
Apr 06, 2015 Joelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why does everyone hate the Mormons? The first half of the book goes into some of the cultural conditions in the early days of the church that led to the friction between Mormons and "Gentiles." The second part deals with how Mormons have been portrayed in fiction and how a society that is supposed to value freedom of religion or at least tolerate heterodoxy can rationalize that kind of characterization. It is scholarly and dense in parts, but I thought it was very interesting and I learned a lot ...more
Steve Wiggins
May 01, 2016 Steve Wiggins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For many of us, understanding other religions is a challenge. Mormons, in particular, have been the butt of jokes and violence for many years. Written by a Latter-Day Saint, this book helps to see how it feels to be on the other side of religious intolerance simply for believing what one does. It is an important book for that fact alone. I frequently blog about religious topics, and I said more about this book in this blog post: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Feb 13, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious
This is a great analysis of anti-Mormon rhetoric and literature from the late nineteenth century until today. I am very glad that I got the updated version as it contained analysis of the Book of Mormon musical and Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. A valuable book for Mormons and for anyone who wants to understand why and how a religious group can be belittled in the popular media, even in our pluralistic modern society.

I also wrote a little more about what I learned from this book on my blog
Sharman Wilson
Not as accessible as Givens' later books, but I appreciated his take on how new religions (or peoples), if seen as threatening, are made into "the Other," thereby justifying their mistreatment. He focuses on American religions, and in particular, the Mormons, to show how the literary milieu of the mid-1800s fueled intolerance and violence against newcomers. He cites numerous passages from anti-Mormon "literature" that would fail the tests of credibility today, but were taken at face value at the ...more
Sep 11, 2016 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, lds, lit
A study of how Mormons have been viewed and understood by the American public as a whole, the second half--comprising studies of how Mormons have been portrayed in popular fiction--is less compelling that the first, and highly recommended half, wherein the author studies how Americans have reconciled their pluralism with their desire for homogeniety, and how Mormons (and other groups, such as the Catholics and immigrants) have been contextualized and treated.
Sep 17, 2013 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If one can ignore a sprinkling of apologia, some insubstantial assertions at odds with the author's academic chops, and a tendency to quarrel with old critics rather than analyze anti-Mormon propaganda within the context of post-bellum frontier isolation, you will find no other piece of LDS literature that is as balanced, self-analytical and revealing
Debbie Barr
A pretty good book for understanding some of the anti-Mormonism themes throughout church history. I'm not sure how well non-LDS people would enjoy it, though. Still, it brought up many good issues and thoughts, and also helped in understanding the context of anti-Mormon thoughts. It also showed similar persecution among other faiths, which was really interesting, too.
Dan Gorman
Oct 23, 2014 Dan Gorman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant history, looking not only at the ways Mormons were deemed alien and traitorous, but also how fiction is a forum for hashing out cultural views. This is one of those books you have to read more than once to truly appreciate, I suspect.
Oct 29, 2009 Emily marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I had to buy this for a class at BYU, but then toward the end of the semester the professor decided to skip that part of the class. It was way too late to return the book, so I have been stuck with it for years.
Jun 10, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent work - Givens is a true scholar and brilliant mind
Mar 17, 2014 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How fiction influenced and reflected popular attitudes about Mormons. Scholarly, stuffy, long and heavy. Sentences seem very forced to give an air of erudition.
Kathleen Ianziti
Jun 19, 2013 Kathleen Ianziti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I read the 2013 updated edition.
Nov 07, 2008 Marci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marci by: Keith Wahlquist
Very interesting view of religious history of America.
Oct 30, 2008 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish every single person I knew would at least read the first half of this book. I learned so much.
Yes, quite.
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Terryl L. Givens was born in upstate New York, raised in the American southwest, and did his graduate work in Intellectual History (Cornell) and Comparative Literature (Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill, 1988), working with Greek, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and English languages and literatures. As Professor of Literature and Religion, and the James A. Bostwick Professor of English at the University of Rich ...more
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